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President Muhamamdu Buhari has asked sports minister Solomon Dalung to ensure that the Super Eagles do not participate in the 2018 World Cup in Russia as spectators.

He also urged him to ensure that the country sustains the tempo of successes recorded in the sports sector in 2017.

Dalung disclosed the presidential mandate to State House correspondents after his meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday evening.

He however did not disclose the minimum stage the President demanded that the Eagles must reach at the competition.

The minister said, “The President encouraged me to, in 2018, sustain the tempo of the successes recorded so far in 2017, especially with the World Cup in Russia.

“He challenged me to ensure that Nigeria does not go to Russia as a mere spectator.”

Dalung said he told the President that part of the strategies put in place by his ministry was to ensure that by March, all the players are paid their match, training and camp allowances upfront.

He said their bonuses would however be in terms of their progression according to the country’s performance at the World Cup.

When asked how prepared the country was for the World Cup, the minister said, “I think we have lined up so many friendlies to play with countries participating in the World Cup and top-ranking countries that did not make the competition.”

He disclosed that although the budget had been approved, it had not been released.

Dalung said, “The difference we have in the budgetary allocations this time is that the budget is funded by the government, private sector and the federation (Nigeria Football Federation). The era when government alone will fund such a competition is no more acceptable.

“There are grants released by organisers to complement the efforts of the government, this must be declared and included in the budget. The money realised from sponsorships and marketing will also have to be declared to constitute the budget that will be declared for the World Cup.

“So we have a round figure that has been budgeted, which is N3bn but the NFF will raise about N1.5bn from what we are getting from FIFA and the private sector.

“Government is expected to turn in N2bn or N1.5 bin for the competition.”

He said the ministry was waiting for the 2018 budget which is currently before the National Assembly.

He added, “I briefed him (the President) about our plans for 2018 because it is a sports year right from February to August, there is no dull moment.

“We need the support of the President as usual and funding as it is required to enable our teams to succeed.”

The minister described a lack of patriotism as one of the reasons why sports infrastructure is not maintained.

He said, “When we are talking about patriotism, we have to begin from the foundation, that is the award of the contract. For instance, the National Stadium in Abuja, the contractors retained maintenance. And the cost of maintenance in two, three years is close to the entire contract sum.

“The contract is faulty because it maintains maintenance within the contractual agreement to where it did not foresee circumstances or economic realities will not be there to support it.

“Secondly, a lack of patriotism in terms of our maintenance culture. For instance, the National Stadium in Lagos, does it mean that since 2003 the stadium when it was shut down, no maintenance has been done at all? Because that is the only reason to explain its present deplorable state.

“Thirdly, every year, there is a budget for the maintenance of that particular infrastructure, the question is what has become of these budgetary allocations?”

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